Meet The Expert: Bethany Williamson, Landscape Architect

indoor tree and painting
people sitting at computer

In our latest conversation with industry leaders, we spoke with landscape architect Bethany Williamson about the art of garden design, drawing inspiration from mother nature, and the challenges of crafting landscapes in an ever-changing climate.

Modscape (MOD): Hi Bethany, can you tell us a bit about what you do?

Bethany (BW): I run a landscape architecture group. We specialise in high-end residential gardens — everything from small city courtyards to rural and coastal properties. We focus on the relationships we have with clients because it’s their home we’re enhancing. I love the fact that we can design something that changes how someone lives. It’s a really rewarding part of the job.

MOD: How did you get into the industry?

BW: I’ve always been creative. After high school, I went into fine art, then moved into interior design before discovering landscape architecture.

MOD: Sounds like you found a happy medium.

BW: We get to play with plants and living things, so I feel like there’s more freedom in our scope.

house with garden
house with garden


Above: Cliff House by Auhaus Architecture (architect), BWA (landscape architect). Photography by Derek Swalwell, Mitch Lyons.

MOD: What inspires you now?

BW: Mother Nature is the best landscape designer. Whether it’s going for a hike or lying at the beach, I get inspiration from the natural world. Creative fields like painting, fashion, and architecture might also spark an idea, be it a colour or material.

MOD: That’s interesting, drawing inspiration from two-dimensional painting for a physical space.

BW: Yes. Looking at some of the paintings we have in the studio, they’re all about light and shadow. Which relates to what we do.

We’re always considering how a garden changes throughout the day – how light interacts with living things. Gardens are all about movement, and light plays a real part in that.

MOD: How do you design for a changing climate?

BW: That’s probably the hardest part of our job. We’re seeing longer stretches of hot weather, and more recently, heavy downpours of rain.

We need to plan for plants that can handle a heat wave while also looking beautiful in winter when there’s a lot of rain. We also need to look at how we can capture water and move it through a site or store it for later. It’s a real challenge.



Above: Hesketby by BWA (landscape architect). Photography by Bethany Williamson.

MOD: How do you go about minimising waste?

BW: We never want a landscaper to come to site and completely clear it, just so they can bring everything in new. If we’re not using what’s already there, then we have to think about where it’s going.

That said, there’s often hard surfaces that need to be removed. As an industry, there’s a lot going into recycling some of these products. Materials like concrete or old bitumen might be tumbled and made into gravel or an aggregate.

MOD: What are people looking for these days in a garden?

BW: I think COVID really made us consider the impact of our personal spaces. People just want a visual escape. Somewhere to relax and get away from everything.

Clients used to only want natives. But if we look at a plant that was growing in a particular area, it may not actually be suitable anymore. The area may have been built up, or there’s more shadow. The climate is different too. There’s so much to consider these days.

timber house with trees


Above: Barwon Heads by Modscape (architect, builder), BWA (landscape architect). Photography by Tom Ross.

MOD: We collaborated recently on Barwon Heads. What were some of your design considerations?

BW: It was an interesting one. The site is positioned on quite a slope, so we had to look at how to retain and create usable spaces.

We needed to design a way to move from the house to the garden while also considering how this would affect the natural levels of the ground.

Responding to the architecture, we wanted to soften and frame views of the house, using colours that would compliment its timber exterior. We also wanted to enhance the beautiful entry. What does it look like from the street? How does someone get to the front door? There were so many opportunities to consider.

MOD: Had you worked with offsite builders before?

BW: No, this was our first time. Usually we come on site and can see the project going up at each stage. But in this case, it just appeared. It’s kind of amazing how fast it happened.

MOD: Were you familiar with the area?

BW: We do quite a lot of work in Geelong and Ocean Grove. In fact, the client got onto us because they’d seen one of our projects nearby. I love the more relaxed coastal feeling down there – it’s a nice change from the inner city gardens. Generally we get a bit more to play with.

For Barwon Heads, the clients specifically wanted a native plant palette. Given the relaxed, beachy feeling of the house, we felt the natives worked quite well in this instance.

timber house with entry door
timber house with trees

“I love that we can design something that changes how someone lives. It’s a really rewarding part of the job.”

terrace with trees


Above: Barwon Heads by Modscape (architect, builder), BWA (landscape architect). Photography by Tom Ross.

MOD: What work are you proudest of so far?

BW: I’m really pleased with how diverse our projects are. We don’t have a specific design style as we’re all about working with the architecture of the house and their setting. We’re still a young business – only seven years old – so I’m proud of how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.

MOD: A remarkable achievement. What are you looking forward to?

BW: There are a lot of projects going into construction this year, which is exciting.

We have some large coastal projects and a couple of inner city Melbourne gardens. They’re all so different, but the spaces and planting palettes are interesting, and we’re able to push the boundaries of design.

MOD: Looking forward to seeing what’s next for you, Bethany. Thanks for your time!

BW: Thanks to you too.

timber house with spiral staircase
timber house entry with cupboard